With the trade deadline approaching, it seems A.J. Burnett could once again find himself in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. Fans may remember that Burnett turned down a one-year, $13 million contract to go play for the Philadelphia Phillies this spring.
With July days away, the Pirates are once again in the hunt for October while the Phillies sit at the bottom of the National League East with a 36-46 record, making them sellers as the deadline nears. The question is whether Burnett will pitch in the Steel City again, the city he redeemed himself in.
According to John Perrotto of USA Today and several other media outlets, the Pirates are looking at several rotation upgrades, most notably Brandon McCarthy and Burnett. Pittsburgh’s rotation was the weakest link in April. The injuries to Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano and several disappointing performances left Pittsburgh’s rotation questionable.
However, Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Vance Worley stepped up and led the rotation. In fact, the three became the Pirates’ best and most consistent pitchers. Is it enough to get Pittsburgh into the postseason? It’s hard to completely depend all on the success of three players who started the season in Triple-A, but they are the future.
Burnett has not had his best season, but he could be a good upgrade for the Pirates. He leads the league with 47 walks and is struggling to get his fastball over the plate.
His fastball is down from an average of 92.4 to 91.4 this season and he has a 3.89 ERA. Burnett’s fastball has always been a key to his success.
Despite the drop off, the starter could improve the Pirates rotation, especially if Liriano continues to struggle or someone else falls off. Pittsburgh did rejuvenate the veteran once before.
This is a trade that brings many mixed emotions to the table. No one can deny the role Burnett played in the Buccos’ success over his two year tenure with the team, but then there comes the feelings of betrayal and disappointment.
The 37-year-old said Pittsburgh was the city he loved and claimed he would be a part of the Pirates if he didn’t retire this year. Money was supposedly not a factor but he took a one-year deal worth $16 million to play elsewhere. Maybe Burnett felt a little jaded by the Pirates or maybe it was greed. Either way, there are a lot of mixed feelings for everyone involved.
Bringing back Burnett could be more of a distraction than a blessing. On the other hand, if emotions are set aside, he could be just what the Pirates need to continue their success.
Hopefully, the Pirates don’t overpay on a gamble that may backfire, but there is a good chance Burnett may return to Pittsburgh next Saturday in a very familiar uniform.